Women hold less than 5% of CEO positions in the US and Europe, according to Financial Times, and over two million women left the workforce in 2020. Many factors contribute to these realities, which leave women feeling tired, disempowered, and unmotivated, sometimes to the point of self-sabotage. The term “glass ceiling” was created by Marilyn Loden; the phrase is a metaphor for the invisible barrier that prevents women from achieving elevated professional success.
Despite making up 50.8% of the US population and 58.2% of the civil labor force according to the US Census, women are staggeringly absent from upper-level leadership positions in the American workforce.
Efforts to shatter glass ceilings in the workplace and life are still underway. Over the years, I’ve seen women still hesitating, hiding, and holding back – allowing limiting beliefs, situations, and circumstances to take over. Shattering inner and outer glass ceilings is critical for change to occur. Transformational work always starts with the inner work, which creates larger impact and influence.
Here are seven ways to shatter your own glass ceilings that may be holding you back.
1. Release and redefine
Think about a belief or behavior that may be blocking you currently: What meaning are you giving it? Where did those thoughts and stories originate? Once you identify what’s holding you back, write it on a piece of paper and then go bury, burn, or release it. Then, redefine what it is that you desire. Come up with a new thought, belief, story, or behavior that you want to adopt. In every moment, you have a choice to see and create differently. What will you release and redefine today?
2. Break out of the “good girl” mentality
Growing up, girls are praised for being a “good girl” via messages reinforced by society, media, parents, teachers, and other influences. It’s your responsibility to break free from the programmed “good girl” messages. One way of doing this is to take more risks, assert your ideas, and express yourself authentically. Breaking free from what you are expected to do is the key to following your heart and your joy, which honors yourself and your truth.
3. Use your voice
A recent survey of 1,100 US working adults conducted by Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to increase women in leadership, found that 45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings. One in five say they’ve felt ignored or overlooked by colleagues during video calls. While this happens in business and in the virtual world, this also happens in everyday life.
Women are not owning their full power or utilizing their voice because they fear others’ judgments and risk ruining their reputation. One way of strengthening this muscle is by leaning into the uncomfortable and taking imperfect action. Every time you use your voice, it makes it easier to make it a habit. Where can you start to use your voice more, regardless of how you feel? Don’t worry about what you sound like or who is judging you.
4. Find or hire a mentor, coach, or advocate
Olympians, actors, actresses, and the majority of highly successful people all have one thing in common: They have mentors and coaches to support them, guide them, hold them accountable, challenge, and push them. Personal blind spots can occur, and a third party can help you shift and show you different ways of looking at things that you may have never thought about before.
5. Praise and promote yourself
Know your worth. A study done by KPMG found that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. Imposter syndrome involves persistent feelings of inadequacy, chronic self-doubt, and feeling like a phony despite past and current accomplishments and successes. How can imposter syndrome be eliminated? It starts by celebrating ourselves and each other.
The first step is to remember and own all of your past successes, achievements, and accomplishments. You can set aside some time and list out every single success, achievement, and accomplishment as far back as you can remember. Praise yourself every day, write yourself a note, look in the mirror, and speak to yourself – then celebrate all of your blessings. Finally, take action and get yourself out there. Promote yourself, connect with someone new, or send that email. It doesn’t matter how you do it; it matters that you do it.
6. Ask for what you want
Do you ask for what you want? Do you ask for help and support? Asking requires vulnerability and getting over the fear of rejection. First, get clear about what the ask needs to be: What do you want and need? Then, take action because every time you take action, your confidence increases. Remember, if you never ask, the answer is always no.
7. Find a support system
Find a strong circle of support. Your environment can either make you, break you, or keep you stagnant and stuck. We are truly the average of our environments, and if someone or something isn’t making you stronger, he or she is making you weaker. Breaking the glass ceiling and finding an environment that’s going to challenge you will change your life. Research different online groups; ask friends, mentors, and people who have what you want. Success leaves clues.
Every action you take creates a legacy for the next generations to come.
Perhaps that’s why on the dating app she cofounded, women make the first move in heterosexual relationships. And Wolfe Herd’s next move may be among her boldest – Bumble publicly filed for an IPO on Friday.
The dating company filed a form S-1 for its IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an offering size of up to $100 million. But that figure is likely a placeholder: Bumble could seek a valuation as high as $8 billion, Bloomberg reported.
The company is looking to trade under the symbol “BMBL” on the Nasdaq. Bumble confidentially filed IPO paperwork with the SEC in 2020, and Bloomberg reported it planned on going public in February, possibly around Valentine’s Day, of this year.
A representative for Wolfe Herd at Bumble did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on Wolfe Herd’s career, net worth, or personal life.
Keep reading to learn more about Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, 31, is a Utah native.
Wolfe Herd was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, The Times of London reported. Her father is a property developer and her mother is a homemaker, per The Times.
The CEO has been a feminist from an early age, telling The Times that she disliked how Utah’s dating culture was dominated by men — women were expected to wait for them to make the first move.
Wolfe Herd went on to attend Southern Methodist University in Texas, and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, per Fast Company. She’s still close with many of her sorority sisters and even employs a few at Bumble.
Wolfe Herd also launched her first business at 19 while still in college, per Money Inc. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill pumped crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for five months in 2010, Wolfe Herd enlisted celebrity stylist Patrick Aufdenkamp to design tote bags that could be sold to help fund relief efforts. The resulting nonprofit, called the Help Us Get Cleaned Up Project, became nationally known after Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe were spotted with Wolfe Herd’s bags.
After earning a degree in International Studies, Wolfe Herd did a brief stint in Southeast Asia.
Wolfe Herd spent her time in Asia volunteering at local orphanages, per Money Inc.
While Wolfe Herd is currently at the head of Bumble, it isn’t the first dating app she cofounded.
At 22, Wolfe Herd was hired to work at startup incubator Hatch Labs in Los Angeles, according to The Times of London. After hours, she starting collaborating with a group that was looking to build a dating app.
That app, which is now known as Tinder, quickly grew into a global phenomenon with Wolfe Herd’s help. She even came up with the name Tinder, per The Telegraph. She is credited as a cofounder and spent two years as the company’s vice president of marketing, per The Times.
Wolfe Herd didn’t leave Tinder on good terms.
During her tenure at Tinder, Wolfe Herd dated fellow cofounder and her then-boss Justin Mateen, per The Times of London. She left the company shortly after they split, and filed a lawsuit alleging that she had experienced sexual harassment and discrimination.
The legal dispute was settled privately outside of court, with neither party admitting to wrongdoing.
Following the legal battle, Wolfe Herd also faced online harassment.
“I was inundated with hatred online, lots of aggressive behavior, people calling me names, really painful things that I’d never experienced,” Wolfe Herd told The Times in 2018. “I felt like my entire self-worth, any confidence that I had, had been sucked away. There were dark times when I thought, ‘Well, this is it. I won’t have a career ever again. I’m 24, coming out of one of the world’s hottest tech companies, but the internet hates me.’ It was a horrible time. Then I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m going to rebuild myself.'”
Wolfe Herd launched Bumble in 2014, originally planning to build a female-focused social network instead of a dating app.
Wolfe Herd was persuaded to forgo her original plan for the app by former business partner and Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev, according to CNN Business.
The app’s women-led model was initially inspired by Sadie Hawkins school dances, where women ask men to be their date, Wolfe Herd told Business Insider in 2015.
“We’re definitely not trying to be sexist, that’s not the goal,” Wolfe Herd said. “I know guys get sick of making the first move all the time. Why does a girl feel like she should sit and wait around? Why is there this standard that, as a woman, you can get your dream job but you can’t talk to a guy first? Let’s make dating feel more modern.”
Wolfe Herd has since expanded the app with additional services to help women meet new friends and expand their professional networks, called Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz respectively. Bumble has also invested in other apps, including gay dating app Chappy, TechCrunch reported.
Bumble now says it has 75 million users in 150 countries, making it second only to Tinder in popularity.
Wolfe Herd also reorganized and took the helm of Bumble’s former parent company, Magic Lab, after its owner was ousted amid accusations of racism and sexism.
After the allegations of racism and sexism against Andreev were published by Forbes in 2019, Wolfe Herd released a statement saying she had had “nothing but positive and respectful” experiences with Andreev but “would never challenge someone’s feelings or experiences.”
“All of us at Bumble are mortified by the allegations about Badoo (Bumble’s majority owner) from the years before Bumble was born, as chronicled in the Forbes story,” Wolfe Herd said in the statement. “I am saddened and sickened to hear that anyone, of any gender, would ever be made to feel marginalized or mistreated in any capacity at their workplace.”
Even before she took on her expanded role, Wolfe Herd was already a workaholic.
Wolfe Herd typically wakes up every morning at 5:15 a.m. and immediately starts responding to emails, she told The Times of London.
She has even been known to wake up every two hours during the night to check her inbox. “I’m trying to stop that,” Wolfe Herd told The Times in 2017. “I get no downtime. I don’t get a weekend, I haven’t lived like a twenty-something since I started Bumble in 2014.”
Wolfe Herd is also politically active, helping outlaw digital sexual harassment in Texas.
Sending unsolicited nude photos — a phenomenon that has plagued dating apps and even AirDrop — is punishable under a new law championed by Wolfe Herd, Inc. reported. She is now advocating for a similar law in California and hopes it will soon be federal law, too.
“It is time that our laws mirror this way we lead double lives, in the physical and the digital,” Wolfe Herd told Inc. shortly after the Texas law was passed in August 2019. “You look at government right now, it only protects the physical world. But our youth are spending a lot more time in the digital world than they are in the physical.”
A post shared by Whitney Wolfe Herd (@whitney) on Mar 26, 2019 at 4:22pm PDT
The CEO says she doesn’t have political aspirations of her own, however. “I could never run for [office],” Wolfe Herd told The Times of London, saying that she is frequently asked if she’s considered it. “There are people so much smarter than me.”
Wolfe Herd is also a mom.
Wolfe Herd married Texas oil heir Michael Herd in an elegant three-day ceremony on Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 2017, per Vogue.
The couple first met while skiing in Aspen in 2013, but Wolfe Herd first saw him on a dating app. “He has the kind of face you remember,” she told The Telegraph.
He is now the president of the oil and gas field operator founded by his late grandfather, Herd Producing Company, and also owns a high-end farm to table restaurant called the Grove Kitchen + Gardens.
A post shared by Whitney Wolfe Herd (@whitney) on Jul 16, 2020 at 10:29am PDT
The couple also has a Great Dane named Duke and a yellow lab named Jett, per The New York Times.
“[Duke] is a kind animal but does not understand how big he is,” Wolfe Herd told The Times in 2019, while describing her daily after work routine. “At 175 pounds, he could quite literally kill me. I have to lock myself in the car while I wait for my husband to come home and get him away from me.”
Wolfe Herd has been open about her struggles with anxiety.
“I haven’t gone through the testing, but I should,” Wolfe Herd told The Times of London. “It’s anxiety about everything. I worry about awful things happening to people I love. They say phones are a strong catalyst for making anxiety worse, so I have this interesting balance — how do I make sure I’m on top of everything, but also preserve my mental health?”
The Herd family splits time between their two Texas houses.
The Herds have one home along the Colorado River in Austin near Bumble’s headquarters and another further north in Tyler, near Michael Herd’s office, per The New York Times. They also own a vacation home in Aspen, Bumble’s chief brand officer Alex Williamson told Aspen Magazine.
The couple also owns Michael’s 6.5-acre family estate on Lake Austin, according to Mansion Global. The waterfront compound boasts a movie theater, helipad, putting green, 10 garages, multiple boat docks, and a guest house, as well as a 5,000 square foot cabana designed for entertaining. That property is currently listed for sale for $28.5 million.
They also travel a lot.
Wolfe Herd takes frequent trips for both work and pleasure. Wolfe Herd told Travel +Leisure in 2017 that her all-time favorite trips include a sailing expedition through Myanmar and Thailand and a family trip to India.
For their honeymoon, Wolfe Herd and her husband stayed at Four Seasons resorts in both Bora Bora and Maui after leaving the site of their destination wedding in Italy, according to a blog post by the Indagare, the group that planned the trip.
Wolfe Herd told Indagare that she wanted a beach-heavy honeymoon because she and Herd were “looking for the ideal place to unwind, where we could take in the sun and swim. Our favorite moments were just relaxing and appreciating each other in such beautiful locations.”
In July 2019, she celebrated her 30th birthday with a multi-day party on a yacht off the coast of Capri, Italy, per Guest of a Guest.
Bumble’s public filing with the SEC revealed the company generated $488.9 million in revenue in 2019, representing 35.8% year-over-year growth. The firm generated $376.6 million in revenue between January 29, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Bumble has 42 million monthly average users and 2.4 million paying users, per the filing.
“I feel like what I’m doing is quite important,” Wolfe Herd told The Times of London in 2018. “A lot of people are, like, ‘What do you mean it’s important? It’s a dating app.’ But it’s important because connections are at the root everything we do. Human connection defines our happiness and our health. This company feels like a piece of me. I know this sounds cheesy and weird, but I really feel like it’s my mission.”
Investors, founders, CEOs, and other industry experts sent in over 50 nominations for women who rose above tough economic challenges with their sharp business acumen and tenaciousness.
From the cofounders of an online rental service for South Asian fashion to a 15-year-old inventor of teeth cleaning candy popular on Amazon, here are Business Insiders top picks for entrepreneurs to watch out for this coming year.